UK appoints ‘tough negotiator’ as Theresa May prepares to invoke Article 50
The year 2017 will be a politically exciting year. We are all looking forward to President-Elect Donald Trump’s inauguration on 20th January. This will then be followed closely with the Brexit negotiations set to begin as early as this April. Theresa May has promised to invoke Article 50 by end of March – an action that will start the whole process.
In respecting that, Theresa May sought to get a better replacement for the recently resigned high-ranking official, Sir Ivan Rogers. The new UK ambassador to the EU is Sir Tim Barrow, branded as “a seasoned and tough negotiator.”
He replaces Sir Ivan Rogers, who quit earlier this week, accusing ministers of “muddled thinking”.
But some MPs have been quick to accuse Sir Ivan for having a faint-heart when it comes to Brexit.
The selection of Barrow, a 30 year veteran diplomat, could disappoint some Brexit campaigners who would like to see a known eurosceptic in the post. But it could help reassure Britain’s cadre of civil servants that their expertise is still valued.
Theresa may is set to deliver a “major Brexit speech” in a few weeks to come.
An ambassador with a solid reputation
Sir Tim Barrow has previously served as a UK ambassador in Moscow between 2011 and 2015. He has also been a sought after adviser by the previous foreign secretaries. While responding to the appointment, he said that it is an “honour” to be offered the position. He promised to do all within his powers and ensure Britain “gets what it deserves” from the negotiation table.
Downing Street was quick to praise his appointment saying that he is extensively experienced and that he would secure Britain’s objectives in Brussels. Sir Tim is expected to “bring his trademark energy and creativity to this job.”
Wider strains in Whitehall
Sir Ivan’s resignation is an indicator of the difficult circumstances surrounding the whole Brexit issue.
In his undiplomatic resignation letter, he told staff that it is his hopes they “will continue to challenge ill-founded arguments and muddled thinking.”
Those against Theresa May seized this as an opportunity to attack her. They said that his departure deprives the UK much needed expertise. However, Brexit supporters regarded his comments as sour grapes, calling for a better replacement.
The issue of experience is one that has gotten many concerned, including Norway Prime Minister. Erna Solberg said that she was afraid of a “very hard Brexit.” Her country is not part of the EU but operates in the single market by permitting for free movement of EU workers.
Solberg said that Britain’s speed on the whole Brexit issue may be slow. She says that it has been long since Britain last negotiated (outside the EU).
But Nigel Farage was quick to weigh into the matter and expressing confidence in the appointment. In a tweet, he said: “Good to see that the government have replaced a knighted career diplomat with… a knighted career diplomat.”
Get rid of skeptical officials
Pro-Brexit lawmakers have said that it is right for officials with no Brexit enthusiasm to quit.
Conservative lawmaker Bernard Jenkin, who campaigned for Britain to leave the European Union said that “Some have been passionately committed to the previous pro-EU consensus and they are in real grief, like many others we know. If they cannot adapt to the new policy, then they are right to go.”
It should be remembered that Sir Ivan has in past expressed fear that “EU – UK trade talks could take a decade to complete,” as highlighted by BBC.